Michael Bichl was born into a Mopar family, and, like many of us, he fell in love with what he grew up with. Granted, a Slant Six Valiant is not exactly a high school dream car, but it did give Michael an opportunity to practice some of what he was learning in shop class.
He discovered that he liked working on cars, and he spent some time helping a couple of older kids in the neighborhood who were running '69 and '70 'Cudas. By his senior year, Michael was wrenching on his own '71 Road Runner that a year later yielded to a lightly modified '73 Dart.
After finishing trade school, he was itching to put some of his full-time salary into an E-Body of his own, but finding one in the early-'80s in the Midwest rust belt that he could afford proved to be a challenge. Eventually, a close friend stumbled upon a Dukes of Hazzard Orange '69 Charger R/T that Michael "had to look at" and (you already know where this is going) after one look, he bought the 440-powered TorqueFlite shifted North Carolina native for just $1,600.
Interior Year One supplied a complete interior kit, while the tilt column and steering whe
Michael couldn't resist pulling the engine and drivetrain to give everything a good once over, and the result was six years of road trips, car shows, and low-14-second e.t.'s.
But what Mopar owner is ever really satisfied with their current power level? By 1989, Michael pulled the 440 again, this time with the intention of adding some cubic inches. But he had recently purchased a home, so the engine project had to wait for the finances to catch up again.
Well, thirteen years later, it was time to get serious about the Charger or let it go. Michael was starting to get the itch for an E-Body again, and he even looked at a few, but he thought, Why just trade one project for another? The body on his Charger was in very good condition, so he decided to restore it and build his ultimate dream R/T
....It's a slightly high-tech look that really fits the personality of the car. AutoInstru
"My vision for the Charger was to have an original looking R/T from the outside, yet it needed to possess a better suspension with updated technology to create a better driving experience," says Michael. "For the heart of a street thumper, I was always sold on stroker motors, and I was missing the manual transmission that I had in my Dart years ago-I thought it would be fun to ditch the automatic."
So he looked for a shop that not only had very strong body and paint talents, but one that could handle his frame, suspension, drivetrain, and braking requirements. In the end, he chose Muscle Car Restorations in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
After being chemically-dipped, the Charger's unibody was deemed solid, but John at MCR thought it best to replace the quarters and the trunk floor, which also opened up the way to mini-tubbing the rear and moving the Eaton rear springs inboard to make plenty of room for 18x10-inch Torq Thrust II wheels wrapped in Nitto 555R 305/45R18 tires. The subframes were also connected, and MCR fabricated a rollcage that would keep the body nice and tight, keep the original interior intact, and not make it a hassle to get in and out of the car.
Muscle Motors' Mike Ware enlarged the original 440 to 493 cubic inches and then capped it
Michael's R/T was certainly no slug before, but even then, it could cause white-knuckle handling issues. Now that he was planning on about a 600hp big-block, Michael knew the stock suspension would always hold him back, so a Reilly Motorsports AlterKtion setup was installed with a power rack, along with a Flaming River tilt column, and four wheel discs by Baer and Master Power Brakes. Now he has confident control of the entire experience.
Still using his original 440 block, Muscle Motors' Mike Ware built 493 cubes of thumping Mopar that measured 599 hp and 623 lb-ft of torque on Premium pump gas using a Muscle Motors custom hydraulic cam, Indy heads, and dual-plane intake, fed by an 850-cfm Speed Demon. The full tti exhaust system includes two-inch coated headers and three-inch pipes out to a pair of Dynomax Super Turbos.
Undercarriage The bottom of this car is almost as cool as the top,...
Not wanting to compromise on the ideal gear ratio in order to maintain some sense of sanity on the highway, MCR installed an aftermarket five-speed transmission conversion. The Dana 60 now only needs to carry a set of 3.73 gears for Michael to be able to make full use of all 600 horses, and still be able to hear his sound system on road trips.
MCR restored the interior back to stock, with the help of YearOne and Auto Instruments, and the latter added a nice touch by coloring the gauge needles to match the PPG Tapestry Red Pearl paint.
....with an AlterKtion K-frame, a power steering rack, Milodon oil pan, Lakewood bellhousi
So how long will Michael be satisfied with his R/T's performance this time? That's hard to say. I suppose as long as it takes him to find the limits of this one.
'69 Dodge Charger R/T
Owned by: Michael Bichl, Wheeling, Illinois
- Engine: The factory original 440 was stroked to 493 cubes by Mike Ware of Muscle Motors, who also added a CRE main girdle with all ARP hardware for ultimate reliability. A custom Muscle Motors magic hydraulic cam works the valves in the Indy heads that are fed by an Indy intake and an 850 Speed Demon carb. An Aeromotive pump, fuel lines, and fittings supply the fuel. Spent gasses exit via a complete TTI system with two-inch coated headers and full three-inch pipes with an X-pipe and Dynomax Super Turbo mufflers. A full BeCool system with a Marsh pulley setup and Classic Auto Air keep both the engine and the driver at their optimum performance temperatures.
- Transmission: A five-speed with a Lakewood bellhousing and a hydraulic clutch is the perfect choice to handle over 600 pounds of torque and still be able to spread it around enough to make full use of it all.
- Rearend: What could be more bulletproof than a Dana 60 with 3.73 gears?
- Horsepower and performance: Muscle Motors measured 599 hp at 5,800 and 623 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm. Michael hasn't had a chance to get his R/T to the track yet, but this should be more than enough power to keep him satisfied--at least for a little while.
- Suspension: Anything you can do to get some weight off of the front of a big-block car will improve handling. A Reilly Motorsports AlterKtion K-member does that and more, with a full power rack and adjustable coils around QA1 shocks. A Flaming River tilt column and wheel provide the directional input. In back, relocated Eaton Detroit leaf springs braced by Cal Tracs traction bars and dampened by another pair of QA1s help keep all that torque aimed in a straight line.
- Brakes: Nothing improves a guy's nerve with the power pedal like knowing that the brake pedal can bring him back to reality. Master Power Brakes and Baer teamed up here to provide full power four-wheel disc brakes that can dissipate the power as fast as Michael can turn it on.
- Wheels: American Racing Torq Thrust II wheels, 17x8 inches up front and 18x10 inches in the back present the perfect classic look.
- Rubber: Nitto Extreme Drag 305/45R18s will attempt to hold tight out back, while Michelin 245/45ZR17s will guide the way.
- Body: Except for the rear quarters and the trunk floor, this is an original '69 Charger unibody car. OK, the rear is mini-tubbed, but if we didn't tell you, you'd never have noticed it.
- Paint: Michael almost went back to the Charger's factory original F8 dark green, but in the end settled on PPG's Tapestry Red Pearl. The R/T stripe was painted on.
- Interior: YearOne came through with a complete original interior, this time black instead of green. Auto Instruments rebuilt the dash and even colored the gauge needles to match the paint color. MCR custom built a fairly non-invasive cage so getting in and out will not be a chore. They also fabricated a carbon fiber top console plate that replaces the factory wood grain decal.